Who would've ever thought that a show featuring a bunch of people that run a pawn shop would become such a big hit? Hardcore Pawn is a reality show on TruTv about the owners of a Detroit pawn shop called "American Jewelry and Loan." It premiered in 2010 and had the most viewers of any show premiere in network history. The owners of the shop are the Gold family, who come from a long line of pawnbrokers.
With a show this popular, there have to be a few secrets behind the scenes, and while the owner, Les Gold, and his children are certainly nice people, there's no doubt that there's a lot that you don't know about the world of Hardcore Pawn. The pawn business is, in itself, a pretty wild business. For the uninitiated, a pawn shop is where you can bring in something of value that you own, and the shop will give you some cash for it, usually far less than what it's worth. Then, you can go in later and pay them the cash back with some interest and get your item back. If not, they sell it.
Pawn shops have often involved people who are a little bit on the underside of society and are sometimes borderline criminal, but it seems like the Golds run a clean house.
Here are 15 Hardcore Secrets behind Hardcore Pawn.
15 They Say It's Unscripted
While many so-called reality shows are anything but that, it seems that Hardcore Pawn is the real deal, at least according to Seth Gold. He said in a Reddit AMA, "We're pawnbrokers, not actors. The truth is, these are real customers. Also, the stuff you see us buy on the show? You can see that it's real, too, because we have things you've seen on the show for sale on our showroom floor or at pawndetroit.com." While I wouldn't believe a lot of people who say something like that, somehow, I do actually believe Seth Gold because he does seem pretty honest although, now that I think of it, maybe he's just such a good pawnbroker because he's excellent at lying. Hard to tell, really.
14 They Wear the Same Clothes On Purpose
You know how it seems like everyone on the show only has one set of clothes? Well, they do that on purpose. Les Gold said on that same AMA: "I have twelve of the white sweaters, at least. We wear the same clothing day to day for continuity purposes on the show. Seth only has one outfit, too." I have to admit that's pretty good to know. I would hate to think that these guys who are successful businessmen and are obviously totally rich, too, can't figure out how to go shopping for clothes. For those of you who don't know, when they're talking about continuity, what they mean is they could shoot something three days apart, and if they're wearing the same clothes, it seems like it could be the same day.
13 They're Very Close to Each Other in Real Life
One of the reasons that this show works is how genuine they all are with each other. There are a lot of reality shows out there where you can tell that everyone is acting in a certain way just because they're in front of the camera. This isn't the case with Hardcore Pawn. You can tell that Les and his kids are all totally respectful of one another and are being pretty legitimate about that in front of the camera. When you see how successful this show is with people on it acting that way, you'd think that maybe reality TV would give a shot to more people that actually got along with each other, instead of those who are fighting all the time. But now that I think of it, that will probably never happen.
12 Some of Them Were Arrested For Stealing
The Chicago location, called Royal Pawn Shop, doesn't seem to do quite as well as the Detroit one does, at least when it comes to the type of people that they hire. At one point, two employees of the shop were arrested for stealing from the shop. This is bad enough, but then, they tried to pawn the items that they stole back to the shop that they stole them from. It's hard to feel bad for people who are as stupid as this. Why would you steal from a place and then try to sell an item back to the same place that you stole it from? That's some really incredibly dumb stuff to do -- although, I suppose, being a thief isn't something that someone who's all that smart does, to begin with. Remember to stay in school, kids.
11 One Customer Was Later Killed By Police
A man who once appeared on the show trying to intimidate Seth Gold was killed by police a few years later. Although David Kapuscinski acted a bit like a nut on HardCore Pawn, his girlfriend said the whole thing was all an act, which is kind of odd, considering it's been said that the whole show is unscripted. Either way, it was a bit of a tragedy. The police were called because of a domestic disturbance, and Kapuscinski refused to comply with their orders. This led the police to taser him repeatedly, and he died. While this obviously has nothing really to do with the show, it does raise one question: is the show really unscripted or not? Because this guy sure seemed crazy on the show.
10 Sometimes, Celebrities Show Up
One wouldn't think that a lot of celebrities would wind up at a pawn shop in Detroit, whether it was on television or not, and you know what? If you actually think that, then you'd be right. It pretty much never happens. Well, except for when Aaron Paul showed up, of course. The star of Breaking Bad once visited the shop looking for a particular item. He didn't find it, but it's still pretty cool that Aaron Paul was there -- although, at this point, the show is so successful that the Golds might actually be more famous than he is. Of course, that's a joke. Aaron Paul is the man and is still a big star, but it still is pretty cool that he showed up at a famous pawn shop in Detroit.
9 Ashley Started Her Own Business
Ashley Gold struck out on her own with an online business called "Pawn Chick Shopping" that she runs all by herself. One might think that this isn't cool and that she's starting up a competitor to the family business, but these three are all so tight that I'm sure that she had the family's blessing. After all, the main reason she said she did it was that she wanted to spend more time with her husband and kids. It's interesting to see what happens in the world of pawn shops when it comes to online businesses because pawn shops are one of the few places that seem to still need a brick-and-mortar location, just so it stays on the legal side of things.
8 They Think Honesty Is Good Business
While people tend to think that pawn shop owners tend to be kind of scumbags and play fast and loose with morality and are always trying to rip people off, the Golds tend to have a different vibe around the whole thing. Once, a woman came in with a bag of stones that she wanted 100 dollars for. When Ashley looked through the bag, she found a gem that ended up being appraised for ten thousand bucks. Instead of taking the money and laughing her way to the bank, she ended up giving the woman what the gem was worth. While most pawn shop owners would probably not do that, the honesty of the Golds is probably a big part of the reason that they got the reality show in the first place.
7 They Help the Law
One of the things that happens a lot in pawn shops is that people try and sell things that are stolen. Let's face it: if a common criminal breaks into a home and steals some jewelry and a television, what are they going to do with it to get money? Well, they're probably going to try and find a fence, and if they can't, they'll take it to a pawn shop. While a lot of pawn shop owners will look the other way so they can make money off stolen goods, the Golds aren't among them. Once, they even turned in a criminal who tried to sell some counterfeit money and a counterfeit-money-making machine to the pawn shop. Once again, the Golds might be true blue, but a lot of pawn shop owners aren't.
6 They Think Pawn Shops Help Society
I suppose that it makes sense that they think pawn shops are good for society since they actually own a pawn shop, but either way, it's true. Seth Gold says that pawn shops are a viable alternative to banks and says that people still have things like birthdays and anniversaries because of pawn shops. He doesn't add the other part, though, like what happens after the birthday. Sure, a guy gets to buy a nice present for his girlfriend by selling his guitar, but at the end of the day, the guy is still poor and won't have his guitar anymore either. With all that said, if you're in a business like owning a pawn shop, you probably have to engage in some pretty creative thinking not to feel bad about yourself.
5 Seth Gold Isn't Greedy
At one point, some senators in the state of Michigan wanted to raise the amount of interest that pawn shops could charge customers. Seth Gold was against it, saying, "Our business is predicated on people getting their stuff back… if you make the interest rate higher, the default rate is going to explode." Sure, it might be hard to tell whether Seth's being nice or he just wants what's best for his business, but it seems what he really might be saying is he wants people to pay him back with the sort of high interest as opposed to not paying him back at all. But still, he seems like a pretty cool guy, at least for the most part. Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he really cares about people.
4 They Once Owned Kevorkian's Van
One of the odder things that were owned at the pawn shop was the van that "Dr. Death" Jack Kevorkian used to assist in about 130 suicides over the years. Les Gold bought it in a scrapyard for 20 grand and sold it for a $5000 profit a few years later. He probably could've gotten more for it, but he said it took up too much room. If you're on the younger side of things, you might not remember who Kevorkian was, but if you're of a certain age or have an interest in creepy things, you know exactly why this van is such a wild thing to own. This is one of the interesting things about Les Gold: he obviously has a bit of a dark side to him as I'm sure most pawn shop owners do.
3 Sometimes, They Buy Things For Themselves
One of the questions that owners of pawn shops get is "How often do they keep things for themselves?" Well, the answer is, they don't do it that often, and the Golds are obviously no exception. While they used to occasionally buy things early on in their careers, the longer they went, the less that they did it. In fact, the van that was owned by Dr. Kevorkian that Les bought was actually going to be for him to keep. This is one of those things, though -- if you're a landscaper, you hate mowing your own lawn; if you're a painter, you don't want to paint your own bathroom on the weekends; and if you're a pawnbroker, you probably get tired of buying other people's things.
2 Les Gold Is A Natural Salesman
Les Gold's grandfather owned a pawn shop called "Sam's Loans." Gold made his first sale there at age 7. He then began his first business at age 12, buying pizzas and reselling them by the slice to fellow students at school. He opened up his own pawn shop in 1978. This goes to show that he had it going on right from the beginning. He started selling at an early age, and he never stopped. Being a salesman is very similar to a lot of other things in life; you either have a natural talent for them or you don't. You don't have to watch too much of the show to see what a natural Gold is at selling, and although his kids might not be quite as good as he is, they're no slouches either.
1 And He's Actually a Pretty Nice Guy
It might be a bit of a surprise to know that a pawnbroker is helpful in his community, but Les Gold is, without a doubt. He supports The Heat And Warmth Fund ("THAW Fund"), which is based in Detroit and which helps local families pay their heat and electricity bills. One party held at the shop raised more than $40,000 for them. It's a cool thing when someone who's based in a tough community like Detroit makes a lot of money and decides to support those around him who aren't as lucky. This is one of the reasons that Gold's pawn shop does so well and also why Hardcore Pawn does well, too. Gold is the real deal, and people in his community and people who watch him on television can tell.
Sources: looper.com; Wikipedia